ZEENA Travel Diaries: All Around Turkey
Posted on July 01 2022
Turkey has become one of our favorite travel destinations, and early this summer, we were fortunate enough to visit this beautiful country once again. Although we have been to Turkey when we were very young, going back as adults almost felt like we had arrived for the very first time. From the picturesque coasts and beaches to the ancient cities formed on the hills, Turkey is a vibrant land with an extremely rich history and culture. We toured the charming neighborhoods of Istanbul (Fatih, Karaköy, Ortaköy, Besiktas, and more!), Bodrum and Bursa where we enjoyed the savory cuisine, admired the stunning views, and spent quality time together doing what we love most -- exploring!
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If you've been contemplating taking your dream vacation, now is the time to say yes to new adventures! Today on Zeena Uncovered, we’re giving you an inside glimpse of our personal travel itinerary all around Turkey, plus inspiration on simple, modest travel outfits to keep your vacay both stylish and effortless.
First stop, Istanbul...
We love historical tours and exploring new places on foot. Istanbul is a city that blends ancient and modern life, and being there truly feels like drifting through time. Booking a walking tour with Sacred Footsteps was one of the most rewarding ways to begin our vacation. We visited the Eyüp Sultan Mosque and the burial sites of Abu Ayub Alansari and Sultan Mohammed Fatih. For our guided tour, we chose four hours instead of the usual six, saving the rest of our energy to grab an evening meal and wander through the tiny winding streets, pausing to visit market stalls and picking up a few souvenirs along the way.
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Of course, you can't visit Istanbul without taking a glimpse inside Islamic history. Choose Viator.com to book your tour of the Hagia Sophia, as well as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, aka the "Blue Mosque". While in Istanbul, we took a stroll through the medieval Topkapi Palace, where the sultans once lived, and popped into the museum for a few mementos and books.
Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
If you've never heard of the Dolmabahçe Palace, it is the second to last palace from the Ottoman Empire. Visiting the lavish, Western-style home of Sultan Abdulmecid I, is definitely worth the trip.
Next Stop, Ortaköy & Fatih!
We spent a lot of our time in one of Istanbul’s most popular and charming neighborhoods, Ortaköy. It has a reputation for its colorful buildings and the stunning views of the Bosphorus Strait. While you're there, take the boat tour and stop for prayer in the beautiful Ortaköy Mosque along the riverside. Be sure to stop by the hidden gem of a waffle stand. There are so many cool restaurants and shops along the Bosphorus, all the way from Besiktas to Bebek.
We could go on and on about the Grand Bazaar in Fatih, but on Wednesdays, it’s definitely a must see! Boasting the biggest shopping experience in the country, the crowds and shopping are unreal, and tailors do alterations on the spot all up and down the strip. It's great for walking, exploring and taking photos too.
The Best of Bursa
After a few busy days in Istanbul, we took a short van ride to Bursa. Bursa is much calmer than Istanbul, with less tourists, but still bursting with memorable landmarks. The city is known for its exciting cable cars, amazing food and the Long Bazaar.
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About an 1.5 hours from Istanbul, visiting Bursa can be a day trip or an overnight visit. Take the cable car all the way to the top of Uludag Mountain (Turkey's Mt. Olympus). Next, visit the resting places of Othman Gazi Turbesi, founder of the Ottoman Empire and his son, Orhan Gazi. Bursa has the best views of the city and the food is fantastic! What's more, there’s also the famous mosque of Ulu Cami and the massive shopping bazaar. If you love nature, touch the 615 year old Inkaya, one of the oldest trees in the world.
Last Stop, Bodrum
We stayed in Muğla for 4 days, relaxing in the Azka Otel (hotel) pool and private beaches. Bodrum is heaven for swimmers and literally walking distance to the marina. There are tons of shopping locations and riverside restaurants. On Viator.com, we chartered a boat ride, and we even got to experience an "ice cream boat" that stopped to sell us ice cream (which Amany loved!). Bodrum is very family-friendly and great for any water activities you have in mind. It is sunny, so bring your shades and watch out for stray cats at every turn. With less tourists, the cats aren’t as well fed as they are in Istanbul, so we played and fed cats every night...which the kids loved!